IVYBRIDGE will be bidding to complete November with a 100 per cent record when they travel to Lydney on Saturday in Western Counties West.
In previous years, November has been a troublesome month for the Bridgers. Last year they lost three out of their four matches that month, including a 27-13 reverse at Lydney.
However, so far this month they have picked up bonus points wins over Brixham and Bracknell to add to another five-pointer against Bournemouth at the end of October.
Their form sees them sit fourth in the table, level on points with third-placed Dings Crusaders, just two behind second-placed Old Redcliffians and five behind leaders Camborne.
However, no-one at Cross-in-Hand is taking anything for granted this weekend against a struggling Lydney side who have only won three times this term.
The Forest of Dean club, coached by former Plymouth Albion captain and Wales international Rhys Oakley, did not play last Saturday and they have strengthen their side this week with the arrival of young fly-half/full-back Danny Openshaw.
Ivybridge have unhappy memories of going to Regentsholme. Last year they were leading 13-7 at half-time but Lydney scored 20 points without reply in the second period.
But Ivybridge are a lot more confident this year, especially after beating Brixham 29-20 last week on a heavy pitch.
“We are in this part of the season when we are playing teams that are good in these conditions,” said player-coach Lewis Paterson. “But last week will give us confidence.
“However, we still need to look at some errors we made in the second half against Brixham.”
Lydney, who were in National Two South this time two years ago, are desperate for a home win after surprisingly only claiming one victory at Regentsholme this campaign. That success was against Newton Abbot, while they narrowly lost by two points against Brixham. They also only lost by one score to Old Redcliffians.
Lydney captain Sam Arnott said: “Ivybridge are obviously going well this season so far and are only one point off second place, so we know it will be a tough ask to beat them.
“But we are at home, and traditionally we are very strong at home so we know playing in front of our fans will be a big help to us.”
Although former Albion forwards coach Oakley works with Lydney during the week he does not attend their matches as he plays for National One leaders Hartpury College.
WESTERN COUNTIES WEST
DEVONPORT Services could move to the top of Western Counties West this weekend if they were to beat Burnham-on-Sea at home and Truro slip up at fourth-placed Cullompton.
Services currently sit second, just two points behind Truro, with 10 of the 26 league matches gone.
One of the keys to Devonport’s success so far this term has been their impressive defence.
They have the second best defensive record in the league and have not conceded a try in their last two matches against Tiverton and St Austell.
“The boys used to hate defending, but they now enjoy it as they believe they are going to succeed, which is a great attitude to have,” said joint coach Mike Lewis. “They have trust in each other and the structures and they are managing to keep people out.
“We have not conceded a try in two games and, hopefully, we can do the same on Saturday.”
Services’ strong defence was needed in the first half last weekend at Tiverton, where they won 7-6.
“The pitch was not too bad at the start but there was just drizzle and some heavy shows all the way through the game and it turned the pitch into a quagmire,” said Lewis.
“It did affect the standard of the game, but we still played some really good rugby. We should have scored three or four more tries.
“But at the same time, Tiverton threw everything they had at us, yet our defence held out.
“In the first half at the start we had the upper hand but for the final 20 minutes of the half it was quite tough for us, to say the least. But it was good to show that character to get out of it and I feel that 20 minutes was what won us the game. It gave us that advantage to press on second half.”
Burham-on-Sea, who in the summer were transferred into Western Counties West from Western Counties North, where they had finished sixth in 2015/16, currently sit 11th in the table with just three wins to their name.
However, Services will be on their guard against them as last week Burnham beat early pacesetters Cullompton 31-8.
“We are just looking at it as another game,” said Lewis. “We know that every team we play can beat anyone. We know every week we are going to be in for a tough game.
“Wellington are the only team we have beaten by a considerable margin and that took us quite a while to grind out.
“We know if we don’t get our mind-set quite right we could lose. We approach every game like that.”
IN-FORM Plymstock Albion Oaks will be hoping to make it six wins in a row in the Cornwall/Devon League when they travel to bottom side Honiton.
Oaks’ winning run has included victories over leaders Falmouth and a 52-7 hammering of Topsham last week.
They now find themselves fourth in the table, just four points off pacesetters Falmouth and just two behind second-placed Saltash.
Plymstock will be expected to beat winless Honiton, but coach Tim Mathias has told his team not to take anything for granted.
“If you look at the league table we should be looking for five points again,” said Mathias. “But, as I said to the lads, they can’t get carried away.
“Honiton is a hard place to go. Last year I remember they were in a similar position when we went there and we were losing at half-time. We did come back in the second half to win quite comfortably, but they made it very hard work.
“Their pitch has quite a slope. It is a bit of playing up and down hill rugby and Honiton know how to play it very well, so that in itself presents another challenge.
“But we are going up there in good form and raring to go. It’s a good opportunity for us to make a statement to everyone.”
He added: “Selection is going to be hard as everyone in the squad put their hands up last week. There were a couple of lads who have played a lot of rugby who were not available but are back this week. But that’s a good position to be in.”
Saltash will be keen to keep ahead of Oaks. The east Cornwall side travel to struggling Topsham on Saturday.
The Ashes have only lost once in their last eight league games – and that was to leaders Falmouth.
However, although Topsham only have two wins and a draw to their name this season, they have, apart from last week, proved competitive in most games, so Saltash will not be underestimating them, especially with conditions likely to be tricky.
All the Plymouth Combination sides are away in the Cornwall/Devon League this weekend.
Plymouth Argaum will looking for a fourth consecutive win when they travel to 11th-placed Lanner.
The Cornish side have not found life easy since securing promotion from Cornwall One last season, but they did recently beat Penryn and pushed the Pirates Amateurs hard last week away, before losing 19-3.
Argaum, still missing key players due to injury, go into the match on the back of victories over Honiton, Tamar Saracens and Topsham this month.
That has moved them up to eighth in the table and they are only four points off sixth-placed Pirates, who travel to third-placed Paignton this weekend.
Argaum, though, are not expecting an easy ride when they meet Lanner for the first time in a competitive match.
“As far as I’m aware it is the first time we have ever played them,” said Argaum secretary Stuart Quarterman.
“They play down in St Day, so it’s going to be a bit of an adventure for us, but we’ve been to a lot of new places the last couple of seasons.
“This is a big game for us. We are expecting this to be tough. You don’t go to Cornwall for easy games. All Cornish sides are reasonably strong at home. It is definitely going to be an extremely tough game.”
As well as their long-term injuries, Argaum will also be missing captain Tom Holliday, who is again struggling with his back. However, they are able to welcome back veteran prop Nick Hancock and scrum-half Ben Glanfield.
Ninth-placed Tavistock have their toughest test of the season when they travel to leaders Falmouth.
Tavistock claimed their fifth win of the campaign last weekend when they beat Withycombe at home, but they are expecting a tougher challenge at Falmouth, who were without a match last Saturday after their away game with Tamar Saracens was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch.
Tavvy coach Hammy Kerswill is away this weeken. However, he has told his side to just concentrate on their own performance against their title-chasing hosts.
“We have nothing to lose down there,” he said.
“I’d like to think we can push them all the way and sneak a victory, but a performance is first and foremost with three very winnable fixtures leading up to Christmas.”
Kerswill added: “Club stalwart and assistant coach Will Reed takes charge as I’m away in Loughborough for a memorial rugby match.
“Bizarrely enough, I am travelling up with Falmouth first XV player Tommy Job, whom I met at university five years ago. We now find ourselves playing on opposing teams in the same league.
“What makes things stranger is that instead of playing against one another this Saturday we will be playing alongside one another 200 miles away.”
Tavistock, who often struggled to get a side out last term, have 57 senior players to select from this season, although 22 of them are unavailable this week.
They do make a number of changes to the team that beat Withycombe last Saturday.
Ryan Bragg, who is based in Falmouth, returns at flanker and Louis Cockcroft comes in at centre to replace the injured Doug Lloyd.
Struggling Tamar Saracens are also down in Cornwall. They have a trip to mid-table Bodmin.
The Cornish side have really picked up form recently and have claimed victories over Withycombe, Plymouth Argaum and the Pirates Amateurs in the last five weeks.
Tamar Saracens didn’t play last week and have not won since the opening day of the season.
They could do with a win to close the gap on the teams above the. They currently sit second-from-bottom and are three points off Topsham immediately above them, six behind 11th-placed Lanner and 18 behind 10th-placed Withycombe.
UNBEATEN OPMs will be bidding to make it four wins out of four in Devon Two on Saturday when they host St Columba & Torpoint at King George V Playing Fields.
Both teams were in Devon One last season but have made contrasting starts to life in the lower league.
OPMs sit second, just one point behind Dartmouth, after big victories over DHSOB and Plympton Victoria and then last week a hard-earned 10-6 success at Old Techs.
Saints, meanwhile, are still looking for their first win after defeats against Buckfastleigh, Dartmouth and DHSOB.
OPMs and St Columba last met on the final day of last season when the Old Boys claimed a 41-35 victory at Defiance Field.
“We hammered them in the first half but then they came back,” said OPMs captain Henry Matthews. “It was quite an interesting game.”
In the corresponding game at Elburton last season, OPMs won 42-0.
“We don’t know what they are going to be like this season,” said Matthews. “Apparently they have got a young side, but they are always going to have a few surprises in there.
“We’re just looking forward to the game.
“From now on we are targeting every single game. If we want to be the best in the league we are going to have to beat everyone.”
There is another derby match at Weston Mill where Old Techs entertain Plympton Victoria.
Techs, after reaching the David Butt Trophy final, have had a frustrating start to the league campaign, losing to both title-rivals Dartmouth and OPMs in their opening three matches.
They were particularly gutted last week after narrowly losing 10-6 to OPMs, in a match they felt they should have won, so they will be keen to take their disappointment out on Plym Vic.
“We just have to try and build again this week against Plym Vic,” said Old Techs chairman David Evans,
Plym Vic are still looking for their first points of the season. However, they took positives out of their performance against unbeaten Buckfastleigh last Saturday.
Although they lost 24-6 they played much better than they had done in their opening two games.
“It was not a bad result,” admitted Plym Vic coach Howell Phillips.
“We have got some new lads joined us, but our big problem has been player availability.
“We have got some good boys and we can do good things but it only takes one mistake by one person for a move to breakdown.
“We’re are just taking each game as it comes.
“This week will be tough. They (Old Techs) have plenty of my ex-pupils, who I know have been taught well!”
There is a third Devon Two match in Plymouth this weekend with DHSOB hosting Salcombe at Stonehouse Creek.
Both teams have one win from three games and sit fifth and sixth in the table.
DHSOB go into Saturday’s match on the back of a 41-10 victory away at St Columba & Torpoint last week.
“It was a tremendous result,” said DHSOB director of rugby Mike Freeman. “Especially as we had players missing.
“I think if we ever get near full strength we will be a challenge for anyone.”
South West rugby fixtures can be viewed HERE.